Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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Cannes 2007: The second half

The second half of the Cannes Film Festival threw up some more motivating cinema. Faith Akin’s Turkish movie, “The Edge of Heaven” had an interesting story to tell us, though I did find the narrative style a little longwinded, even somewhat circuitous. In what often appeared like coincidences, the film puts four Turks and two Germans on the screen and shows us how their lives crisscross with tragic results. The most poignant part of the “The Edge of Heaven” is when it underlines the relationship, not quite platonic though, between a German girl and a Turkish illegal immigrant she befriends. The Turk, also a young girl, Ayten (played with great panache by Nurgul Yesilcay), is a political activist on the run from Istanbul, and the movie, divided into three chapters (a style that I first saw in the works of the Danish director, Lars Von Trier), paints the horror of a tragedy brought about by Ayten’s relationship with Lotte, the German girl. Akin’s work looks impressive without being overtly glossy, and he travels from Turkey to German with consummate ease.

However, I must say, despite the fear of displeasing some, it is Hollywood which has mastered the craft to near perfect levels. And one notices this every time one watches American cinema from the big studios. Michael Winterbottom’s “A Mighty Heart” relates the intense hunt for a Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in 2002. Based on a book by his widow, Mariane, “A Mighty Heart” created curiosity and commotion during its shoot in the western Indian city of Pune, where Angelina Jolie (portraying Mariane) and her boyfriend, Brad Pitt, landed with their children. The film begins with Jolie’s
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
voice-over that sets the tone of Daniel’s story as he is tricked into a trap in Karachi, kidnapped and ultimately beheaded. Mariane, pregnant with Daniel’s child, enlists the help of just about everybody she knows, and they include senior people from the Journal, U.S. diplomatic security specialist Randall Bennett and her friend, writer Asra. The investigation is led by the chief of Pakistani counter-terrorism unit, known as Captain, admirably played by the Indian actor, Irfan Khan. While the rest of the cast performs well enough, it is Khan who is near brilliant in a role he underplays to the hilt. Passionately believing that if Daniel were to be killed, it would bring a bad name to Pakistan, Khan begins a desperate search, which eventually goes in vain. But I was quite disappointed with Jolie’s work. She simply does not convey a woman in extreme distress. Rather, she appears like an investigator herself, making notes of the developments and jotting down the contact details of the suspects and others. I hardly saw a woman, six months into her pregnancy, wracked by fear or pain. Winterbottom made some memorable cinema, including “Welcome to Sarajevo”. “A Mighty Heart” seems such a disappointment in comparison.

The French entry in Competition, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by Julian Schnabel, is the tragic tale of Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine, who suffers a stroke and finds his entire body, except his left eye, paralysed. His doctors and physiotherapists envisage an elaborate plan for him to use his eye to blink/convey the letters of the Alphabet. He writes his memoirs, and has it published three days before he dies in 1997 aged 45. The work looses its balance somewhere, and we get around seeing too much of the hospital and the blinks. While Bauby’s monumental and painstaking effort cannot be ignored, what I would like to have seen is a bit more of his life when he was up and about. There is far too less of this in Schnabel’s work.

(Webposted May 25 2007)